Emerging from restricted living

These times have been strange. The restrictions of the past year have certainly been profound. For many of us, it has been a situation in which we have had to just "get on with it" no matter what 'it' was.


Often, our usual resources for coping may have been out of reach just as we needed them the most. In my opinion, we have, as a nation, shown a resilience that is undoubtedly to our credit. And yet, as we slowly start to emerge from such a restricted life, we may well begin to experience feelings that we have "put on the back burner" for the duration just in order for us to get through it all.


Loss is a normal aspect of life. In any normal year, many of us will experience loss of some kind. Often, we find that we are supported in our loss and we can, after a period, move forward and embrace our future. It is my hunch that the presence of loss may have been felt differently since March 2020. Our feelings may be more intense, compounded by the situation, or may be denied and buried as a way of getting through the period.

Let us consider the possible losses of the past year, which have been many and varied. Maybe the majority of us have been touched by at least one of these: loss of freedom; loss of social contact; loss of good health; loss of work, business and income; loss of accommodation; loss of loved ones, either directly through COVID or indirectly.

Although these losses can occur in any year, I feel that over the last year, they have been more prevalent. And, with restricted resources for coping and processing our losses, their impact has been felt differently.

The kinds of loss listed above are obvious and in no way hidden and, yet, other losses may be less easy to recognise: loss of confidence; loss of trust in others; loss of hope or engagement with life; loss of faith; and maybe the loss of the illusion that our good health is assured.

Other feelings

In addition to loss, there may be new or rekindled feelings such as anxiety, depression, frustration or anger. It could be that issues we thought we had dealt with in the past or managed through activity outside of the home have resurfaced. Feelings that we thought we had overcome may have been amplified by the situation, or maybe the feelings are completely new to us and have taken us by entirely by surprise.

Man using laptop

Restrictions, family and relationships

Compounding everything, the closing down of life over the previous months has largely removed many of our usual resources for processing events and feelings. Sometimes a temporary distraction is exactly what we need to 'recharge our batteries' before getting back to the issues we face.

Other times a heart-to-heart with a close friend or relative may be the one thing that will help us to find whatever it is we need at that point. We have benefited from online methods of communication, both via text messaging and video messaging and, yet, these may not always have provided what we have needed in the moment.

The restrictions may have been a strain on our family and romantic relationships, and we may even be reassessing what we want from the future. Maybe we have felt trapped, locked down with somebody, or maybe multiple people, who we have felt distant from.

There may be irritation, heightened feelings, anger. Usually, we spend less time with our loved ones and the time spent with them may be precious but, in lockdown, everything has been different. The situation may have become volatile or even violent.

The restrictive lockdown situations in which we have found ourselves over the last year may have made it impossible to find what we have needed in order to help us resolve or accept the things that have caused us to suffer most. And, as a result, we may have suffered more, or maybe buried the associated feelings out of sight for the duration.

As we re-emerge

With the gradual easing of lockdown measures now on the horizon and the possibility of our slow emergence back into freedom within sight, we may find that other things come with us.

Working with a professionally qualified counsellor, we can explore whatever we need to, in confidence and without judgement. We can work our way back into the light, processing what we can, making changes that will benefit us, and working to accept those things that we cannot change.

There has been discussion of how much life in general can return to what it was before the pandemic, with some people suggesting that it should not return to “business as usual”. Some argue we should instead rebuild better, more sustainably, and more equitably.

Whatever the truth about the wider situation may be, working through any issues that have arisen or have been highlighted by the pandemic and its restrictions on a personal level could certainly support us as we re-emerge.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, SE9
Written by Steve Hughes, MBACP
London, SE9

Steve Hughes is an integrative counsellor working in Welling in South East London/Kent. His experience is working in the third sector as well as in private practice, working with a diverse clientele with a complex mix of presenting issues.

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